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The woman in the room – Frankie Layton of Dirt

With International Woman’s Day just around the corner, we talk to some female entrepreneurs and shine a spotlight on some of the woman in the space. From the innovative and new laundry start-up, Dirt, Co-Founder Frankie Layton talks about where female entrepreneurship is heading.

The Kiwi co-founded company, Dirt has been making waves across Australia and New Zealand as it addresses a gap within the industry, a gap Co-Founder Frankie Layton wanted to address.

She says the idea came from looking at how the laundry aisle was “littered with huge amounts of plastic” and contained “nothing but a few harsh chemicals and water”, whilst the recycling industry focused on the consumer to do the right thing rather than the company focusing on the materials.

“I never really set out to ‘be’ an entrepreneur, I just found myself quite bothered by the state of play,” says Layton.

“These are the things that motivated me to look elsewhere. To discover a product that I really thought I could love. To convince a few people we ‘could’. And give ‘business’ a go.”

Finding the gap in the market is really only the beginning for any business. As for Layton, she was faced with challenge after challenge, with the first being finding her way in.

She says that securing a manufacturer was one of the hardest challenges she faced in the road to creating Dirt, as it wasn’t funded and they couldn’t meet anyone’s minimum order quantity (MOQ).

“I did what I always did when I couldn’t find suppliers via email: drove out to their warehouses and tried to plead my case,” she remembers.

“Upon arrival at our current manufacturers, I asked for a meeting with the boss (got one, I couldn’t believe it). I asked him to make 500L of my detergent (he agreed, I couldn’t believe it). I was off to the races.”

This is what Layton considers a lucky moment, which can be part of the recipe to overcoming a challenge.

In a meeting years later with her manufacturer, she asked why he agreed to work with Dirt and he said; “When you turned up and marched into the meeting room – I thought there must have been a pre-existing relationship (with the old business). After you walked out, I asked the staff who on earth you were. None of my staff knew and I just said “bugger, I just agreed to make 500kg of her ‘dirt’.”

Read more: Kiwi businesswomen team up to champion female entrepreneurship

But getting a start isn’t the only challenge she has faced.

Layton mentions that the female experience leaks into challenges of creating one’s own business.

“I have been mansplained more times than I care to count. I have been underestimated. And I have been spoken to in condescending ways,” she explains.

Frankie Layton.

These challenges shine a light for Layton, who says that these hiccups “glean far more insight” into how she walks into the space, whether it is a room of entrepreneurs, laundry giants or investors.

The unique female experience of having children has also shone a light for Layton in approaching a business, she adds.

“I find myself thinking on the career and family front; there’s got to be an easier way.”

With these experiences, any female entrepreneur already has a unique advantage when it comes to starting a business and with those advantages it is a matter of focusing on them, she says.

“The female business network is an unbelievable source of strength. Find your people and stick like glue. To find those networks who can help you grow, it can be good to look to female-led organisations like Girls In Business, which put you in the room with like-minded people,” Layton advises.

“Be patient with those who give you unsolicited advice or underestimate you. They are the same people who will tell you a tiny but crucial piece of information by accident because their guard is down.”

When approaching business, Layton says you don’t have to act “macho”; it is about approaching it like how any other business has been for the past 10 years.

“An interesting thing one VC told me once, is that he much prefers to back women in business,” she recalls.

“His experience was, that when women do projections, it’s what they think they will be able to achieve. He mentally adds a little more upside to their pitch. When men do the same exercise, they’re presenting the maximum level of growth possible if you had phenomenal luck and not a single thing goes wrong. He mentally cuts their pitch in half.”

These moments are what make Layton think it’s an exciting time for the female entrepreneurship space.

With the growing support for female business owners and entrepreneurs, she believes one day, women will feel comfortable in their seat at the table.

“While I believe the road toward all women feeling comfortable in a room full of egos is fairly long and fraught, there are so many great role models and support groups out there, that the challenge is not a solo one anymore.”

Bernadette is a content writer across SCG Business titles. To get in touch with her, email [email protected]

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